Seeing Opportunities

Seeing Opportunities

Entrepreneurial Goggles

The point was that with the goggles, beams could be seen that were invisible to the naked eye. We urged our students to practice developing their own “goggles” for spotting opportunities that might go unnoticed by people who were not paying attention. What we had them do was create a list of the characteristics of a situation that might create a business opportunity. Then each week, the students would share both the list of characteristics and the opportunities these characteristics made them think of. By the end of the semester, the students had a long list of ways to spot opportunities, some of which they could use in the business plans that were required by the end of the course.

Examples of “goggles” could include things like: needs met badly, inefficiencies that could be made more efficient, the capability to transplant a situation from one setting to another, and so on. One that I hadn’t thought about for some time was one we used to call “uneven demand.” That’s when there is strong demand for an asset or solution in one place, but a lack of demand for the same in others.

Rita Gunther McGrath, Finding opportunities others dont see



The Future of Innovation- Tim Brown

I can’t remember how I came across Tim Brown from IDEO, probably from one of his great talks.
Here’s one on the future of innovation at Acumen. It was really helpful when I started looking at how design and enterprise could help people.
Some nuggets
  • Use information to connect
  • Solve for the system- look at the context, design not just the product also business models
  • Trust builds market- Holistic design is not just about design but also about accountability
  • Brands bring trust
  • Set up kiosks and do experiments for a day- test viability
  • No idea will scale unless it solves real needs for real people } The largest collection of womens stories } The largest collection of womens stories

I have spent the last couple of days on watching inspiring stories of women that have and are changing the world. It contains documentaries on the feminist movement, on women in different fields like comedy, hollywood and business and short individual stories like Nancy Lublin, CEO of youth change organisation Do Something.

alt= Nancy Lublin

“Never be too proud or too busy to pick up a penny in the rain. There’s opportunity everywhere, there’s value in everybody. Its all good even that penny in a puddle” Nancy Lublin, CEO Do Something

The difference between Imagination, Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The difference between Imagination, Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Wonderfully insightful talk by Tina Seelig From Inspiration to Implementation.

Imagination is the ability to envision things that dont yet exist

Creativity is applying imagination to solve problems- ideas that are new to me

Innovation is applying creativity to come up with new solutions- ideas that are new to the world

Entrepreneurship is applying innovation to bring ideas to life

The innovation cycle works by reframing the question, instead of 5+5=? ask ?+?=10. 

Her tips for students at the end of the talk are brilliant “If you ask for permission you are transferring the risk to someone else.”

Employment status?

Employment status?


Image: via…

I’m currently in the enviable or unenviable position of straddling a range the whole range of employment status. I’m employed in casual labor, working freelance, a trustee of a charity under which we’re starting a starting a (social enterprise). It’s been brilliant when I think I don’t have to sit in an an office all day but terrifying when the dreaded word tax comes up. It’s been 6 months since I graduated and 3 months since I began the mix of work, so now seems to be a good time to take a moment and reflect on them and explore what is great or isn’t so great.

What has been great for me is that I’ve realised I thrive on the mix. The past three months have been intense but it is great being able to see multiple perspectives. As I go along I’ll keep

My current employment is casual labor but during my studies I worked full time in offices during the summer and also did my year in industry. One of the perks is of course is the steady pay check. Knowing how much you will be paid and when is a blessing. Working at the theatre I have met other freelancers in creative industry’s who dip in and out or work permanently in casual jobs to supplement their income.

After office hours are also your own, which is something you start to miss when you are self employed. Additionally there is the prospect of promotion and moving up the ranks, depending on where you’re working. I found the bigger the office, the greater the chance of that, but the experience you could gain in a small office would be more hands on.

However as I discovered when I was made redundant in my year in industry, working for someone else does not equal security. Loosing that job, made me reconsider working in full time employment, especially because I found that sitting at a desk all day was not my idea of fun.

Freelance/ self employed
I never planned to go freelance. I sort of fell into it as the research internship I will soon be finishing required it, so I never really had any expectations for it. One thing everyone imagines is that freelance equals greater freedom and flexibility, I remember saying that to freelance tech guys, and laugh at the naivety. There is definitely freedom to plan your time as you want and work on different projects in different areas of interest. I really enjoy how no two days are the same and how I can work on one project for a short time and move on to the next. However have quickly realised is that all time is work time. You can easily work 365 days. The difficulty will be forcing myself to take a holiday, something that’s so simple when you’re employed.

A big part of being freelance is networking. Going out there, meeting people, finding opportunities, promoting yourself. I definitely enjoy how sociable it is meeting new people and finding out the interesting projects they are working on.

The most important thing that the last 3 months have taught me is that self employment is a big balancing act. Balancing projects, knowing when to say yes and when to say no. Balancing time off with work time, balancing your finances, balancing quiet times with busy times, balancing client relationships and priorities, balancing time between fun work, paid work and admin.

Starting a business/ entrepreneur
Since I was a teenager I dreamed of starting my own business and although I dabbled in some eBay sales in my youth, it was only in my last year my final year of uni when I attended the Clean Conscience Dirty Hands conference that I understood the type of business I wanted to set up. I ended up pairing with a friend who was also interested in the same ideas and we have since joined the non profit with the aim of setting up a social enterprise. It feels unbelievably lucky to be starting a business I’m passionate about, using design to make positive social and economic change.

Starting after university felt like an ideal time to start. I already had some experience in over 1/2 dozen offices and I felt that if I went into a traditional job and decided to branch out in a couple of years I would get too comfortable and too afraid. That’s not so say it can’t be done, I’ve read before that the average age for start up entrepreneurs is the mid 30’s.

Starting a business is really similar to being freelance in a lot of ways, you’re working all the time, dealing with clients 1:1 which brings greater feeling of responsibility. However it’s like double the pressure because you have to do things like monitor your finances and the companies finances, network and promote, but people are buying into the company’s vision, it’s product and service as well as you.

I have realised that the best way to do it is in a team. It makes a huge difference to know that you have the support of others with a shared vision. You can bounce back and forth ideas, spread the work better, and it also makes you actually go for it if you are accountable to others.

Enterprise for me is more about the end game; empowering people by improving the design of their environment. It has the perks of giving you ultimate control, which being freelance doesnt really do. The goal is to be able to get to the point where the enterprise runs smoothly and you can have people, smarter and more talented people working for you. As Seth Godin explains beautifully in this post Organising for Growth.

Third sector/ charity
This is my first foray into the third or charity sector, the social enterprise we are setting up is under the charity. It is definitely a field where the potential for feeling like you have a purpose and being fulfilled are the greatest. But as we all know there is little or no money in it. We do not take a salary for the work which is great as it means all the money raised goes to the projects and there is that increasingly important transparency. It also means that the work we do is in our free time, which can have its drawbacks, however it is fascinating how much you can give when money is taken out of the equation. As a sector the passion in the people I have met has astounded me. It is definitely highly motivating.

Charities are more tightly regulated than in businesses, where it seems like you can do it however you want as long as it’s legal. Money is of course important here, it is about asking people to donate to a cause and in order for them to do that you have to get them to not only believe in the vision and purpose, but to also the results and sometimes why it would benefit them to help. Something I have never considered before. Of course the moral concerns are high on our minds. It can sometimes feel overwhelming but knowing that you are helping someone even if it seems small is a wonderful feeling.

The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan

An inspiring example of how design and entrepreneurial thinking can make a positive social impact from the Detroit based Empowerment Plan, started by Veronika Scott, a 24 year old entrepreneur and product designer. Veronika has designed a a coat that turns into a sleeping bag for the homeless. But its more than that. She has created an organisation employs women that are homeless and sleeping in shelters, providing them with and income and hope. As she describes a woman once told her “coats are pointless we need jobs.”

sleep bag

It reminds me of a quote from Mohammad Yanus “when I see a problem I create a business to solve it.”

Find out more at

Business model canvas tool

Business model canvas tool

My search for business plan templates has brought up a lot of boring templates that seem hard to adapt to anything other than the conventional business. But then I came across this great tool by Alexander Osterwalder the Business Model Canvas. I also just started reading the Lean Startup by Eric Ries and the two work brilliantly together. Its a simple tool and highly visual which is great for someone in the creative industry like myself . It shouldn’t be a static thing as Alexander Osterwalder explains in his talk at Stanford. You draw the business model, decide the key hypothesis and test them, which is where the Lean Startup principles start to come in.

If you have time check out the talk he gave at Stanford University, ecorner.

If not, the key points are;

1. Checklist- use the business model canvas to create map your business proposition and decide what your underlying hypothesis are

2. Story- explore strategies that use different sections of the canvas

3. Patterns- map out other business models (similar ones if possible) to understand how they work

4. Testing- create live experiments to test aspects and evolve the hypothesis

I’ve got my post it notes ready to go 🙂